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The bathing and the prayer were o'er;
He turned him from the grassy shore,
And with his brother and his spouse
Sought his fair home beneath the boughs,
Sitá and Lakshman by his side,
On to his cot the hero hied,
And after rites at morning due
Within the leafy shade withdrew.

p. 250

Then, honoured by the devotees,
As royal Ráma sat at ease,
With Sítá near him, o'er his head
A canopy of green boughs spread,
He shone as shines the Lord of Night
By Chitrá's  1 side, his dear delight.
With Lakshman there he sat and told
Sweet stories of the days of old,
And as the pleasant time he spent
With heart upon each tale intent,
A giantess, by fancy led,
Came wandering to his leafy shed.
Fierce S'úrpanakhí,--her of yore
The Ten-necked tyrant's mother bore,--
Saw Ráma with his noble mien
Bright as the Gods in heaven are seen;
Him from whose brow a glory gleamed,
Like lotus leaves his full eyes beamed:
Long-armed, of elephantine gait,
With hair close coiled in hermit plait:
In youthful vigour, nobly framed,
By glorious marks a king proclaimed:
Like some bright lotus lustrous-hued,
With young Kandarpa's  2 grace endued:
As there like Indra's self he shone,
She loved the youth she gazed upon.
She grim of eye and foul of face
Loved his sweet glance and forehead's grace:
She of unlovely figure, him
Of stately form and shapely limb:
She whose dim locks disordered hung,
Him whose bright hair on high brows clung:
She whose fierce accents counselled fear,
Him whose soft tones were sweet to hear:
She whose dire form with age was dried,
Him radiant in his youthful pride:
She whose false lips maintained the wrong,
Him in the words of virtue strong:
She cruel-hearted, stained with sin,
Him just in deed and pure within.
She, hideous fiend, a thing to hate,
Him formed each eye to captivate:
Fierce passion in her bosom woke,
And thus to Raghu's son she spoke:
   'With matted hair above thy brows,
With bow and shaft and this thy spouse,
How hast thou sought in hermit dress
The giant-haunted wilderness?
What dost thou here? The cause explain:
Why art thou come, and what to gain?'
As S'úrpanakhá questioned so,
Ráma, the terror of the foe,
In answer to the monster's call,
With fearless candour told her all.

'King Das'aratha reigned of old,
Like Gods celestial brave and bold.
I am his eldest son and heir,
And Ráma is the name I bear.
This brother, Lakshman, younger born,
Most faithful love to me has sworn.
My wife, this princess, dear to fame,
Is Sitá the Videhan dame.
Obedient to my sire's behest
And by the queen my mother pressed,
To keep the law and merit win,
I sought this wood to harbour in.
But speak, for I of thee in turn
Thy name, and race, and sire would learn.
Thou art of giant race, I ween.
Changing at will thy form and mien.
Speak truly, and the cause declare
That bids thee to these shades repair.'
   Thus Ráma spoke: the demon heard,
And thus replied by passion spurred:
'Of giant race, what form soe'er
My fancy wills, 'tis mine to wear.
Named S'úrpanakhá here I stray,
And where I walk spread wild dismay.
King Rávan is my brother: fame
Has taught perchance his dreaded name,
Strong Kumbhakama slumbering deep
In chains of never-ending sleep:
Vibhíshan of the duteous mind.
In needs unlike his giant kind:
Dúshan and Khara, brave and bold
Whose fame by every tongue is told:
Their might by mine is far surpassed;
But when, O best of men, I cast
These fond eyes on thy form, I see
My chosen love and lord in thee.
Endowed with wondrous might am I:
Where'er my fancy leads I fly.
The poor misshapen Sitá leave,
And me, thy worthier bride receive.
Look on my beauty, and prefer
A spouse more meet than one like her:
I'll eat that ill-formed woman there:
Thy brother too her fate shall share.
But come, beloved, thou shalt roam
With me through all our woodland home;
Each varied grove with me shalt seek,
And gaze upon each mountain peak.'
   As thus she spoke, the monster gazed
With sparkling eyes where passion blazed:
Then he, in lore of language learned,
This answer eloquent returned:

        * * * * *


249:1 The chief chamberlain and attendant of S'iva or Rodra.

249:2 Umá or Párvati, the consort of S'iva.

250:1 A star, one of the favourites of the Moon.

250:2 The God of love.

Next: Canto XVIII.: The Mutilation.